We are in exciting times for filmmaking and for all art forms.  The advent and advancement of the internet, combined with the all-time low costs for advanced equipment, means that pretty much anyone can create content for almost no money.  And sometimes this content is actually quite good and skilled, despite not breaking the bank to produce it.  If you’re in the filmmaking world, as I am, you will know that the picture quality you can achieve on relatively inexpensive equipment is far superior than what our fathers were resorting to a generation ago, and spending life’s savings on it to boot.  But with this increased competition comes the need to be SMARTER.  How can you be smarter about film creation?  Here are some essential tips to get you on the right path.

1.  Play Devil’s Advocate Against Yourself

A commonly made mistake is to come up with an idea and to be so sure of this idea’s greatness that you never strive to make it better.  Ask yourself tough questions, playing the Devil’s Advocate.  Throughout the process ask yourself if this is the best you can do, or what the desired outcome is, or who the target audience is for your film and a particular decision you’re making.  Always ask, and if you don’t have an answer, you better come up with one before you proceed!

2.  What Platform do you Want to Use?

Are you making a full length that will premier at an international film festival, or a fun 4-minute short that you’ll upload to Vimeo and share with your friends and family?  When you know what platform you are going to use – and be realistic – you can steer your production toward that goal.

3.  Think about Budget

The more money the better?  Not true – a fantastic film can be made for cheap.  When you are working on the budget for you film, be realistic and think about what you can cut and what you simply can’t live without.  If you come up with a budget, and add a little padding, make sure you get that money.  If you think you can make your film for $20,000 and you only raise $10,000, it would be unwise to go on with production at this time.  Not only will you waste the $10,000, you and your crew will be severely discouraged.  Focus on getting a grant or benefactor before you start production.

4.  Seek Help

Not professional help, but seeking help from others is actually going to be less painful than you think.  Many people are afraid to ask for help because it screams weakness; but what you may not realize, is friends and family will want to help.  That’s the nature of the success behind Kickstarter and other fund-raising platforms.  Instead of thinking of yourself as begging to borrow a car or location, or getting free snacks from a friend’s restaurant, think of it as crowd sourcing in real life.  You can always give your generous friends due credit and help them – for free – when they need help in the future.  Man hours are a great resource to trade!

5.  Keep a Realistic Pace

Making a movie is exciting, and some folks get carried away with their enthusiasm to the point where they want to film the whole thing in one night.  That’s not a realistic way to make a quality film.  Instead, focus on giving yourself a realistic estimate of how long each aspect of the film will take.  It’ll still be hard work, but setting too-tight of a deadline will not only create undue stress for yourself and your entire crew, but will result in a worse film.  If you need to bust ass to make a deadline for a film festival, maybe you should take a deep breath and realize that you can submit it next year.

A cameraman captures a car crash during filming of a tv miniseries.

A cameraman captures a car crash during filming of a tv miniseries.